When I hear this word, the first thing I think of is the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. Then, I think about how sad it is that the word “porridge” sounds so… dreary. Not only is it a dish that many people eat when they’re sick (who has good memories of being sick?), but it also has this less-than-flattering name that lowers its potential for deliciousness. It’s like the opposite of, “If it sounds good, it’ll probably taste good.” (I don’t even know if that’s a saying; I just made it up. Bear with me.) But some dishes just sound mouthwatering, and this is not one of them.
I have much better associations with the term 죽 (jook), which is Korean for porridge. It’s not just porridge, though — it’s used to describe soups with thicker consistencies as well, like Korean-style squash and pumpkin soups. Jook is a hearty comfort food that warms the soul (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating just a little… but it warms my soul). In other words, it couldn’t be farther in my consciousness from this thing called “porridge”, which I associate with oatmeal (not one of my favorites) and hungry bears.
Anyways, the point is, I had some really good porridge recently (though I cringe a little to call it that). Last Thursday, my usual lunch buddies and I decided to try a restaurant I noticed one day on my way back to campus. It’s called 본죽 (Bonjook), and specializes in various kinds of porridge.
The seats were comfy sofa chairs (a nice surprise), and the place was spotless and impeccably neat — we were impressed.
The jook selection was equally impressive. How many variations on porridge can there possibly be?
After some deliberation, one friend and I decided to both order the beef vegetable porridge, while our other friend opted for the hot seafood and vegetable porridge.
Both were really good, but the hot seafood one was divine. Unfortunately, I’m a bit sensitive to spiciness, so that dish isn’t for me. However, that jook isn’t any less delicious because my palate can’t handle it. I thought the beef and vegetable jook I ordered was a little bland, but then I realized that that’s what the little side dishes are for. The kimchi, marinated beef, and seafood pepper paste (or whatever it was) are all packed with flavor, so it’s up to you to garnish each bite according to your tastes. And the side dishes just keep coming every time you run out, so there’s no need to be judicial about portions. The ajumma (waitress/owner, maybe?) was really attentive and kind to us, so it was a wonderful eating experience.
I guess porridge isn’t so bad after all…